In 2004, two days after Christmas, a writer-journalist from Louisiana named Sara

Bongiorni launched her family into a yearlong experiment to boycott goods made in China. That

night, upon noticing that most of the presents in the house bore the label, Bongiorni decided to

kick China out of the house," simply to see whether it was possible.1 She quickly discovered that

the idea was not as original as she had thought; Peggy and Dave Smedley, a magazine-publishing

couple, had banned Chinese-made presents and bought only American that very Christmas. After

calling Mrs. Smedley for advice, Bongiorni learned about the challenge ahead: not only is it

difficult to track down goods without the label, some ostensibly non-China-made goods might

also have China-made contents. Weighing the difficulties in the year to come, Bongiorni decided

to "avoid one thing only: labels bearing the words Made in China."2

Bongiorni documented the experience in a book, A Year without Made in China: One

Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy. Its publication in 2007 perfectly coincided

with China's run-up to the Olympic Games. As the global media spotlight zoomed in more

intensely on the nation,3 a series of China-made consumer product scandals grabbed national

headlines: tainted pet foods exported to America, followed by the recall of a million lead-painted

Thomas & Friends toy trains in the U.S. and U.K., and finally, the withdrawal of July 4 fireworks

due to a "dangerously unpredictable sense of direction."4 As "Made in China" came to pose

threats to American lives, Bongiorni's book enjoyed extensive media coverage in U.S. and

international news outlets, from CBS News, the Christian Science Monitor, and National Public

Radio to newspapers in the Middle East.

To be sure, the idea of boycotting China was not new. After all, global media have made
it a routine to report that nation's suppression of political dissidents, abuses of human rights, and

internet censorship, among other standard Communist or "authoritarian" practices. In the pre-

Olympics media craze of 2008, these reports culminated in the infamous Olympics torch relay,

when violent protests erupted in London, Paris, and elsewhere aiming to stop the Chinese

delegates from passing through. While spectacles of this kind may be reflective of anti-China

sentiments among large numbers of media consumers in the West, the idea or place called

"China" they invoke remains distant enough to exert little or no impact on the spectators'

everyday life. As fleeting moments on media screens, they at best serve to remind the viewers of

their fortunate situation in the "free world" and are capable of moving no more than a handful of

activists into action.

However, the threat of "Made in China" in 2007 appeared to be much more imminent and

closer to home. In addition to the danger of consuming unsafe products, the label also conjured

up the specter of a looming economic downturn, a trend often attributed to the shift of production

from America to China. "As many as 2 million Americans have lost their jobs to Chinese

competition," notes Bongiorni, "but we still can't get enough of what China is selling."5 This

predicament was compounded by the fact that many Americans who had "lost their jobs to

Chinese competition" could now only afford to buy cheap goods made in China, as opposed to

more expensive ones made by unionized, higher-paid American labor. One may argue that more

than any other China-related news, the media stories surrounding "Made in China" had taken

center stage to become a dominant framework for the American public to process the United

States' growing connections with that "rising power."

Upon the publication of her book, Bongiorni became the source of "China-free" advice
for numerous Americans seeking to de-link from China, sometimes to protect their families from

hazardous products, at other times to inject some personal stimulus into the American economy.

Like Bongiorni, these consumers felt a "real" and "personal" connection with "China's place in

the world."6 In some sense, the oftentimes "negative" connection between the American

consumer and the "Made in China" label continues the age-old "Buy American" movement

motivated by economic nationalism.7 But the historical forces that gave rise to this new

manifestation, the medium via which it was communicated, and the state-citizen relation it came

to promote on both sides of the Pacific are indeed telling a new story about China, the United

States, and their relationship in globalization.

In this chapter, I will suggest that what distinguishes the 2007 spectacle of "Made in

China" from other China-related news events is the emergence of the label as shorthand for a

nation brand. Not only was "Made in China" cross-promoted on multiple global media platforms

as a brand for a nation, it was also portrayed by both U.S. and Chinese news media as a brand in

crisis, the ramifications of which transcended geopolitical boundaries. The formation of this

nation brand calls attention to the globally imbricated operation of the postsocialist state--as at

once an institutional actor from whom policy directives emanate and a subject continuously

imagined into being amid globally circulated images and discourses. The formation of this state-

subject, I argue, is emblematic of the entrenchment of the IPR regime, which operates through

the global imaginary of the brand. The cultural effect of this regime has manifested itself most

powerfully in China's WTO-era national policy, "From Made in China to Created in China," or

what I call a "nation branding" project. While not exclusively a product of the transnational
discursive circulation of "Made in China," this project nonetheless presents a national vision that

corresponds to the same ideological forces and material conditions that gave rise to the brand

name itself. The formation of this nation brand in crisis is where I shall begin.

<A>"Made in China": A Transnational Production<\>

What is "Made in China?" On a very basic level, it is a country-of-origin label. First

introduced in the U.S. by the Tariff Act of 1890, the labeling requirement based on rules of origin

(ROO) has never been favored by the proponents of free trade.8 This is because the labeling

requirements are often perceived as "non-tariff trade barriers" offsetting the free flow of capital

and goods. For instance, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in November 2011 that the

U.S. requirement for meat products to be stamped with country-of-origin labels (COOL) was a

case of "technical barriers to trade."9 The U.S. law came into effect in March 2009 in part as a

response to domestic food safety concerns. But it was later said to have affected major

multinational food companies, whose cost to import livestock from Canada and Mexico had

increased due to the added process of labeling. The complaint, filed by Canada and Mexico at the

WTO, faced an appeal by the United States in defense of its own citizens' right to know.10

Incidents like this point to a paradox of economic globalization qua trade liberalization embodied

by the country-of-origin label. On the one hand, capital's global move in search of low-cost labor

and raw materials shows no regard for national boundaries, except when governments offer tax,

anti-union, or other incentives to attract foreign capital. On the other hand, the state's mandate to

protect "national interests" or promote the "national economy" calls for particularized trade

policies, such as the stamping of imported goods with a nation-specific mark. These measures
are sometimes meant to protect specific domestic enterprises from being trampled by the influx

of foreign goods and at other times to inform citizen-consumers about the geopolitical origins of

their goods when making purchasing decisions.

The institutionalization of the country-of-origin label complicates Marx's notion of the

commodity fetish in some sense. For Marx, a commodity stands in for the social relations behind

its own production. Commodity fetishism refers to a condition whereby the product of human

labor appears as an objective entity completely devoid of the labor that produced it.11 The

country-of-origin label seemingly disrupts this fetish by placing a location stamp on a

commodity, thus bringing into view the place-specific presence of assembling labor. However,

by presenting the assembling nation itself as a stand-in for the "globally dispersed forces that

actually drive the production process," the label also creates a new kind of fetish--what

Appadurai has called "production fetishism."12 While the labeling requirement ostensibly seeks

to capture the locality of production in one nation's name, it participates in the masking of the

voluminous border-crossing transactions most often engendered by transnational or multinational

corporations (MNCs).

Precisely this fetish was at work in the "Made in China" discourse that garnered such

attention circa 2008 in the American context. For Sara Bongiorni as well as the candidates in the

2008 (and 2012) presidential race, "Made in China" signifies the transfer of employment

opportunities from the United States to China on the one hand, and the growing trade deficit that

America holds with respect to China on the other. This rhetoric portrays China as the winner of

the game, as the "Made in China" process brings more jobs and a bigger trade surplus to that
country. To be sure, these charges are not without material grounding. But more than

representing the nation of China, the label embodies a set of transnational processes. The

seeming ubiquity of the label in the United States is the result of the massive shift of production

from America to mainland China after the congressional granting of Permanent Normal Trading

Relations (PNTR) status to China--a "prelude" to the latter's 2001 accession to the WTO.13 This

process, of course, was first set in motion by China's Reform and Opening Up policy since 1978.

To attract foreign direct investment (FDI), Deng Xiaoping set up export processing zones in

China's coastal cities, many of which became the destination of production plants originally

located in Southeast Asia. In 2002, the leading consulting firm A. T. Kearney announced that

China had surpassed the United States to become the "most attractive" destination for FDI.14

Actual numbers soon caught up with this indicator of confidence, when China replaced the

United States as the largest recipient of FDI in 2003, before repeating the act for a second time in


In this light, the label "Made in China" can be seen as a material manifestation of the

border-crossing mobility specific to finance capital. While state policies and decisions in

America and China play a definitive role in aiding and facilitating capital movement, it is the

transborder character of that capital, as well as the transborder commodities it engenders, that are

expressed by the country-of-origin label. After all, there is no legal requirement in China or

elsewhere to indicate a commodity's place of origin if it is produced and consumed within the

national borders. The labeling practice only becomes an issue that concerns the state

(specifically, the American state) when there is a geopolitical separation between a commodity's
place of production and its place of consumption. "Made in China," then, is a physical expression

of the transnational movement of capital and goods.

At the same time, country-of-origin labels of this kind by no means capture the extensive

outsourcing and subcontracting activities spread by MNCs throughout increasingly divergent

geographical locales. The growth of these activities in the past few decades has no doubt made

the determination of the "national" origins of products more difficult. As a response, U.S.

Customs and Border Protection (part of the Department of Homeland Security) now designates

"the last country in which (a product) has been substantially transformed" as the official mark to

be stamped on an imported item.16 Since China has become a chief locale that provides an

abundance of cheap assembling labor, "Made in China" has become an almost ubiquitous label in

the United States, despite the fact that various components and parts for goods thus labeled are

often made from materials produced in other nations.17 Even as the "Made in China" label

reveals the transnational condition of its own making to some degree, it also conceals the more

complex, multi-directional flows that characterize the contemporary global economic system.

Recognizing the complex processes that "Made in China" simultaneously reveals and

conceals, however, does not provide the answer to another crucial question: How has "Made in

China," a quintessentially transnational label, come to be politicized as to shape China's national

politics at this particular moment? In some ways, the rejection of "Made in China" is a new

development in the union-organized "Buy American" movements, which have been instrumental

in mobilizing economic nationalism in the United States throughout the twentieth century.18

Often fused with anti-Asian racism (toward Japan in the <APOS>50s<N><APOS>60s and
China in the present), the union-motivated call for consumers to purchase products "Made in

America" operates on an anti-foreign, "us versus them" logic.19 What this logic hides, of course,

is that the profit generated in this global system of production is seldom if ever retained by the

workers who produce the surplus value. More often than not, it flows back to where capital

originates. As a 2007 study of iPod's "value capturing" chain suggests, when an iPod leaves the

Chinese factory to enter the United States, the factory price of $150 is the figure recorded as

America's import from China. However, when the iPod is later sold at the price of $300 in the

United States, the largest portion of its profit goes to the American company (Apple), whereas

the assembling country of China only "captures" a few dollars.20 Rather than displaying

competition between the nations of America and China, this disparity manifests an exploitative

relationship between transnational classes. As such, the casting of "Made in China" as a marker

of inter-national job transfers and trade imbalance, much like the "Buy American" movements in

the past, obscures the trans-national flow from labor to capital, from surplus value to profit

earnings. By obfuscating corporate capital's state-sanctioned border-crossing mobility, the protest

against China precludes the possibility for transnational worker solidarity.

What remains puzzling, however, is the ability of "Made in China" to galvanize national

feelings despite its own production in the "in-between" spaces of the transnational, be it trade,

capital, earnings, or commodities stamped with the country-of-origin label. Arguably, the "Made

in China" boycott is a new manifestation of Appadurai's notion of the "fetishism of the

consumer."21 Here, consumer action is constructed as a prime site for an individual to imagine

and exercise his or her national citizenship vis-à-vis a globalized economic system. While
Appadurai emphasizes global advertising--another set of "flows"--as the main productive force

of the consumer's make-believe agency, there is no meticulously designed, large-scale corporate

marketing campaign to deliver the intended message of "Made in China." Nor are the

transnational conditions of its production and representation sufficiently captured by the imagery

of "global flows." If anything, what the country-of-origin label makes visible is that nation-states

and transnational corporations are engaged in more complex tensions than may have been

indicated in the rhetoric of "flows." It is indeed more illuminating to consider the label another

way, in which self-proclaimed "multinational" corporations retain multiple ties to specific nation-

states, legally, institutionally, and culturally.22

Given the complexities brought on by the country-of-origin labeling practice in general

and the "Made in China" discourse in particular, it behooves us to ask harder questions about the

reconfiguration of nation-states in globalization. As I will demonstrate below, the rise of "Made

in China" in the American public discourse is better grasped as the formation of a nation brand.

What makes this branding distinct is that its agent of representation is not the Chinese

government's propaganda branch or the marketing department of any particular MNC, but the

global communication networks exemplified by CNN and the like. These channels of

communication, by linking the nation with a country-of-origin label, also consolidate what may

first appear to be an amorphous constituency for China's postsocialist state. What enables this

consolidation is a shared sense of temporality between two cultural formations: the nation and

the brand.

<A>The Making of a Nation Brand<\>

A two-part television special called "Made in China," aired on CNN International in
2007, begins with the following introduction:

<EXT>What's in a brand? Ideally, the guarantee of safety and quality. But what happens when

poisonous pet food, toxic toothpaste and dangerous drugs share a common label? Those are only

some of the hazardous products that carry the label--"Made in China."<\>23

<FL>The host goes on to recap several recent scandals regarding Chinese imports to the United

States. The show depicts Beijing's response as "silence" at first, "damage control" second, and

finally "turning the tables to protect the brand name." The 2008 Beijing Olympics is noted

verbally and visually as an opportunity for the Chinese government to enhance its "global

profile." The reporter cites the 2006 trade deficit between the United States and China ($232.5

billion), stating that "60% of recalls of consumer products in the US have come from China." He

also makes reference to the earlier "cheap and unreliable" signifier "Made in Japan" but cautions

that "China's challenge is much greater."

Noting that "Made in China" now "reads like a consumer warning," another

correspondent interviews several shoppers, experts, and pedestrians in New York and other cities.

While some express their preference for items not made in China, others remain oblivious of the

location of the production of their goods. One young woman preparing for her prom expresses

her concern that the merchandise she is about to pay for "was made in sort of a sweatshop there

(in China)." (Her friend standing behind her, upon hearing this comment, shrugs and says:

"Everything is.") However, because "the other ones are much more expensive," the young

woman decides to make the purchase regardless.

Beijing's brand protection measures are reported to have taken various forms. Among

them are organized tours of safety inspection facilities and death sentences for corrupt officials in
the Chinese equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration. A government spokesperson,

appearing in a press conference, blames the Western media for hyping the story. Scott Kronick,

the head of the leading advertising agency Ogilvy's Beijing branch, subsequently dismisses this

"West-bashing" tactic as "a mistake." Instead, he advises Chinese officials not to lay blame on

others. This is followed by an appearance by Mike Leavitt, President George W. Bush's Health

and Human Services secretary, who informs the audience that in his talks "with the ministers of

the various parts of their government," "the 'Made in China' brand" is something "they are taking

very seriously."24

The second part of the CNN program features two "human stories," one in China and the

other in Panama, of families who suffered the death of loved ones from taking substandard drugs.

The correspondent then poses the question: "What responsibilities do importing countries have

for protecting their citizens?" President Bush, speaking at a cabinet-level panel he has organized

to tackle the food safety issue, also affirms that this issue is "very serious" for consumers. Citing

critics' view that America's "food safety laws are out of date and not designed to meet the

modern day challenges . . . like imports and bio-terrorism," the reporter states that "food safety is

now an issue of national security." He concludes by urging U.S. consumers "to educate and

protect themselves, while Beijing tries to restore the world's confidence in that label, Made in


Although this might not be the first time that the "Made in China" label was referred to as

a brand for the Chinese nation, the use of the omnipresent "branding" language to signify an

equally ubiquitous country-of-origin label is far from coincidental. While the production of
"Made in China" certainly differs from that of corporate brands, the seamless identification of the

label as a brand for a nation is predicated upon a commonality between the nation and the

brand--as cultural artifacts, both are produced in relation to time. The idea of one's belonging to a

national community, as Benedict Anderson reminds us, is grounded in an understanding of the

self in relation to others in time. The same can be said about a consumer's association of various

commodities with a particular brand name. It is because of this shared sense of temporality that

the two converged so seamlessly in the formation of "Made in China" as a nation brand.

For Anderson, the development of print capitalism provided the condition for a wider

public to imagine the nation "as a solid community moving steadily down (or up) history."26 If

this account overemphasizes a modern conception of time--as "homogeneous and empty"--as the

basis for national imagination, it is complicated by Homi Bhabha's notion of a "double time,"

which emphasizes the contingency of the national formation.27 For Bhabha, the temporality of

the nation is simultaneously fixed and destabilized. On the one hand, the hegemony of the

national elite depends upon, and is reinforced by, the unquestionable unity of a national past and

a linear temporality of progress. In this case, the time of the nation is presumed to be

homogeneous and empty. On the other hand, those in lesser positions of power are also engaged

in the constant making and renewal of the nation. In doing so, they perform a different national

present by becoming historical agents themselves, rather than being the mere objects of the elites'

nationalist pedagogy. In this latter scenario, the time of the nation is heterogeneous and


This characteristic of the nation's "double time" is arguably shared by brands as well. On
the one hand, brands constitute the chief means through which capital accumulation takes place

in the age of the "global culture industry."28 They are different from commodities in that they

"do not typically exchange" but "are only for sale on capital markets, where their value is a

function of the expected future profits above those contributed by all other assets."29 The IPR

regime, most specifically its branch of trademark law, plays a crucial role in legitimizing and

sustaining the value of the brand. The ideological principle of "intangible assets" that underlies

IPR works to homogenize the temporality of the brand, such that the future realization of the

brand value is continuous and can be accumulated from its present form. In this sense, brands

can be seen as corresponding to what Randy Martin calls "the financialization of daily life"--a

process that "reorients our sense of time to beckon the future in the present."30

On the other hand, the brand can also be understood as a performative object, a "dynamic

unity" built upon "a set of relations between products in time."31 These relations in time refer to

the built-in feedback loop that engages brand owners and consumers in a series of

accommodation, contestation, and co-optation. Much like the national subalterns who

continuously contest the national-elitist pedagogy, consumers constantly participate in the

production of the brand's meanings either by repeating or advocating purchases of the branded

products--as in the case of brand loyalists--or by rejecting or reworking the brand, as in the case

of cultural jammers, adbusters, and counterfeiters (chapter 2).32 In other words, the brand also

operates within a heterogeneous temporality; its signification is more contingent and disjunctive

than what may be prescribed by trademark law. The brand's subjection to heterogeneous
meaning-making practices, from imitations and fakes to playful appropriations, indeed

challenges the attempt on the part of the IPR regime to homogenize brand values based on the

intangibility of intellectual property.

This comparison between the nation and the brand and their respective temporalities

helps us explain why "Made in China" came to be invoked as a brand for a nation. Despite the

fact that goods stamped with that label are transnational objects circulating between nations

rather than within them, the CNN special and other media accounts of its kind have effectively

obscured the transnational spaces these objects traverse and the multi-directional processes they

embody. Instead, what these accounts do is to consolidate the various commodities into a

singular brand name--a unified country-of-origin label--thereby turning "Made in China" into a

representative marker for a particular nation. This consolidation would not have appeared to be

so natural if not for the temporality on which "Made in China" narratives are based. Bongiorni's

"year without China" adventure, for instance, is narrated through a temporal flow organized by

important dates on the calendar: the birthdays of family members, the summer beach season, July

4, Halloween, and the grand finale of Christmas. All of these occasions, of course, are associated

with very particular types of products that are deemed seasonal necessities, from Halloween

costumes to beach toys, from summer pool supplies to Christmas gifts. The family's movement

through the calendar, however, is met with the struggle to avoid the omnipresent "Made in

China" sign. The difficulty of the task often results in a series of mini-meltdowns and crises,

manifested as temporal disruptions in the homogeneous, calendrically organized national time.

These disruptions of national time culminate in programs like the CNN special, which

further condense time in the form of a televisual crisis and pave the way for the solidification of
the "Made in China" brand. In these spectacles, items stamped with the label are presented as

low-price objects of inferior quality that fail to meet safety standards. When brought to the

American public in overabundance, they threaten immense danger. Combining qualitative lack

and quantitative excess, this crisis mode of representing "Made in China" is heightened by a

sense of urgency. As the word's Greek origin--"krisis, or decision"--suggests, crisis is "a time

when decisions have to be made."33 It calls particular (political) agents into action. The intrusion

of "Made in China" into the daily life of American consumers is constructed in such a way as to

position the states--both the Chinese and the American--as subjects of intervention to ameliorate

the effects of a crisis. Whereas the American state is held up as a protector of the nation's citizen-

consumers, the Chinese state is assigned the role of a brand manager, now responsible for the

quality of life of consumers in America and worldwide.

To be sure, the fixation of "Made in China" as a nation brand differs from an increasingly

widespread practice dubbed "nation branding," which refers to the adoption of marketing

principles and means of mass communication by national governments "to maintain and

perpetuate the nation through time and across space."34 The key difference between the two lies

in the role of the state, or more specifically, how the state can be conceptualized. In the case of

nation-branding campaigns that are directly organized by governmental units, the state assumes

the position of an institutional subject, one who interpellates its national citizenry through

marketing practices intended to promote the nation's image. In the case of "Made in China," even

though the Chinese government played a role in creating the material conditions for its making,

the linking of the label with the nation itself has more to do with how the label is circulated, by
way of commodities and media discourses, beyond the confines of the state. Insofar as this

transnational circulation comes to project meanings about the nation, these meanings do not

directly emanate from the institutional entity of the state. Rather, the state is itself interpellated,

as it were, by global media representatives like CNN, as a subject responsible for the brand crisis

of "Made in China." In turn, the media spectacle of "Made in China" consolidates what may first

appear to be an amorphous constituency for China's postsocialist state. Replacing a conventional

notion of the state-defined citizen is the figure of the global--read "foreign"--consumer.

The formation of the consumer-citizen subjectivity in time is crucial in naturalizing the

conception of "Made in China" as a nation brand. For one thing, the production of this consumer-

citizen depends on the disjunctive temporality of "Made in China" as a transnationally circulated

"brand," albeit one to be avoided, not embraced. The label's "disruption" of the American nation's

calendrical time positions Bongiorni and her fellow China boycotters as consumer subjects

through the act of negation. Both Bongiorni and the consumers interviewed by CNN showed an

awareness of, if not distaste for, "American consumerism," as well as the various injustices (such

as "sweatshop labor") it often entails. However, just as Bongiorni would usually return to her

"normal" state of being an "American consumer again,"35 the young women buying prom

merchandise on CNN still chose to make the purchase because of the cheap price. Bongiorni

herself, at the end of her year-long experiment, concluded that "I may miss the boycott from time

to time but I don't know that I'd try it again. In some ways I'd rather not know how much harder

life without Chinese goods might be a decade from now" (my emphasis).36 Here, the difficulty

of imagining a life without products "made in China" is projected onto a future. This imagined
temporality, rather than conjuring up a national community of belonging, instead evokes a

deterritorialized notion of membership--based on the subject's relationship to a particular

"nationality" of goods rather than a specific nation-state.

Certainly the relationship between the consumer-citizen and the "Made in China" nation

brand is marked by a sense of contingency. While boycotting acts invoke a form of "inverse"

consumer agency, it often contradicts the "self-interested rationality" on which a "subject of

value" ultimately depends.37 This contradiction is not unlike the simultaneously affective and

rational processes through which consumers associate (or disassociate) themselves with (or

from) corporate brands. Brand campaigns work to infuse specific meanings into logos that appeal

to various market segments and target customers, but there is no guarantee that these affective

processes would trump the consumer subject's rational choice to minimize the cost of living by

resorting to the cheapest product available. Similarly, while a negation of "Made in China" feeds

into a nation-based structure of feeling, it ultimately contradicts the subject's recognition of "its

fundamental needs" and its capacity in "calculating the best way to attain those needs."38 Yet it

is precisely this ambiguous consumer-citizen subject position that presents an opportunity, if not

a mandate, for China's postsocialist state apparatus to engage in the production and negotiation

of meanings for the nation. The disjunctive time of the crisis, from which "Made in China"

emerged, calls for a state-subject to intervene, to re-unify the now deterritorialized national

image by offering a homogeneous time frame--one akin to that of the brand--in which the

national community can be re-imagined. But the state's pedagogical "object"--the people--is to be

found not only within but also outside of its sovereign borders. This consumption-based (as
opposed to, say, residency-based) citizenry also helps to shape the cultural production of the

state, since the ideological formation to which it corresponds is now simultaneously national and


<A>Rebranding "Made in China"<\>

Well before Bongiorni's adventurous year ended, the Chinese press started contacting her

for interviews. The first telephone call from a Chinese journalist lead to an article that contained

passages never voiced by Bongiorni herself--"The children had no toys . . . Gone were their

laughing, smiling faces."39 Later, a Chinese television crew came to her house. Having spent

three hours there amiably making friends with the family, they left them a vase as a gift. When

Bongiorni's neighbor warned her about the looming threat of "red China" and reminded her to

examine the vase for microphones, she waved it off. As someone "raised by peaceniks in

California," Bongiorni distances herself from those in the "Bible Belt," who would more

willingly subscribe to an outdated rhetoric of China scares.40 However, another reporter soon

followed up with an interview that chiefly focused on the negative outcomes of the boycott.41

Only then did Bongiorni realize that she had "inadvertently become an instrument of propaganda

for the Chinese government."42 Her book was quickly translated into Chinese, with the title

"Likai Zhongguo Zhizao de Yinian." While it still literally reads as "A Year without 'Made in

China,'" it conveys just a bit more sense of passivity--"away from" (likai)--than

activity--"boycott" (dizhi). An article she wrote for the Christian Science Monitor was also

translated and published in Global Times, a state-run newspaper, almost immediately. As

displayed on the "Foreign Telegraph Reference" section of the People's Net, the central
government's official online news outlet, the title for the article now appears as "American

Family Sighed: Days without Chinese Products Became Difficult," with the original English

heading subtly displayed at the end of the page.

The television footage, it turned out, was featured on none other than China Central

Television (CCTV), long considered the party-state's mouthpiece. It was a centerpiece in a

weeklong special campaign called "Believe in Made in China."43 Aired on the Finance Channel

during its peak hours, the show consisted of three parts: "Believing in Made in China," "Tracing

Made in China," and "Experiencing Made in China."44 In this and other similar programs (such

as one that appeared two months later on Shanghai's equally prestigious Oriental Satellite TV),

Bongiorni's story was cited as an example to demonstrate global consumers' dependence on

Chinese-made products. Numerous officials in charge of quality control took the platform to

assure the domestic audience as well as invited foreign nationals that they could trust Chinese

products.45 These actions, in the eyes of Russell Leigh Moses, a professor of political science at

People's University in Beijing, reflect "an attempt by the government to convince people that

they are on the job" upon noting the "infiltration" of such information through the internet.46

Moses's comment is illustrative of the fact that the "Made in China" label entered the

Chinese government's brand consciousness through transnational channels (such as CNN and the

internet). A late 2007 episode of the World Weekly program on CCTV News, for instance,

devoted almost one-third of its thirty-minute segment to Bongiorni's "economic experiment,"

including a brief visual sequence from CNN's "Made in China" program.47 The CNN images
come in after Bongiorni's voice-over comments, attributing her book's popularity to the fact that

it is "about a family, life, and about how this (made in China) has affected us."48 A CNN logo

appears on the upper-left-hand corner to remind the viewer of the clip's origin. A few seconds of

somewhat blurred shots of the tainted drugs, the Chinese mother of the victim, toothpaste, and

toys are accompanied by the narrator's voiceover:

<EXT>Not only so, after this year-long experiment, Bongiorni also modified some of her

previous opinions on Made in China. When she continuously found the "Made in China" sign on

the labels of Chanel clothing and brand-name computers, she realized that Made in China has

long surpassed the realm of "cheap commodities."<\>49

<FL>Clearly, the producers of the CCTV program were not only aware of the CNN reportage

but saw it necessary to deploy its imagery to convey new meanings. The intertextual reference to

CNN may not come as a surprise, especially considering that CCTV, the long-time representative

of state-run media, has in recent years moved toward a "China's CNN" model in preparation for

its WTO-era competition with transnational communications conglomerates.50 In this program,

CCTV continues its tradition of reporting "good" news to its viewers (chapter 2). Predictably, its

tone differs from that of the CNN original, which warns American consumers of the questionable

quality of the "Made in China" brand. While the CNN narrative calls upon the U.S. and Chinese

governments to take political responsibility in managing the crisis for the citizen-consumer, the

CCTV version emphasizes the world's desire for and reliance on goods made in China. Citing

Bongiorni and her readers, the program highlights the label's increased presence in "expensive,

high quality" products, in addition to playing a key role in the lives of common American
consumers.51 As if to reinforce this finding, the prominent Beijing newspaper China Youth Daily

points out that "'Made in China' is no longer just an illustration of a place of origin, but has

become a way of life deeply influencing a large number of foreigners."52 Headlines from

"Without 'Made in China,' American(s) cannot survive" to "Without 'Made in China,' Life is a

Mess" likewise portray Ms. Bongiorni's experiment as having produced no less than a family


What characterizes this reworking, one may argue, is the appropriation of a global

discourse in constructing a national imaginary. To be sure, nationalist movements that arise out

of issues related to international trade are not without historical precedent in China. One such

precedent is the "National Products Movement" in the early twentieth century. At the time, the

Nationalist state was in too weak a position to establish trade barriers, and the imposition of

unequal, imperialist treaties resulted in an influx of foreign products into the Chinese market. In

response, the movement called for wide-ranging institutional and individual actions to promote

consumer preferences for "Chinese" (read "national") products over "foreign" (yang) ones. There

are distinct differences between this consumer-citizen movement in Republican China

(1911<N>1937) and the more recent Chinese media appropriation of the "Made in China"

discourse. A century ago, the categorization of product nationality was based on "raw materials,

labor, management and capital."53 In the twenty-first century, by contrast, it is "brand name" that

has emerged as the category most strongly associated with a nation's name.54 Certainly the

branding of Chinese products through nationalist symbols and myths remains a common practice
among Chinese companies today.55 Increasingly, however, there has emerged a new mode of

branding, intending to promote a "new China" through the "convergence of multiple initiatives"

on the part of the government and global advertising firms alike.56 As Jing Wang points out, part

of the challenge for nation branding is that the "global" audience for the nation is much more

difficult to pin down than it is for product branding.57 This challenge is in some sense met by

Chinese media's immediate appropriation of the globally circulated "Made in China" discourse.

Central to this immediate appropriation is the figure of the global consumer, constructed

as not only an important witness for China's global rise but also a significant target audience to

be courted by the Chinese state. The foreign consumers' reliance on and endorsement of the

"Made in China" brand would ultimately boost the nation's profile among its citizenry proper and

vis-à-vis foreign governments' unequal trade policies. In this sense, the WTO-era Chinese "Made

in China" discourse has a more distinct focus on the global image of the Chinese nation. This

image is to be conveyed by the global reach of products "made in China," whose customer base

is conceived as consisting of a great many "foreign" buyers of Chinese exports. Compared with

the National Products Movement of the last century, this re-branding of "Made in China" has a

decidedly more global outlook. And it is this global outlook that works to solidify an otherwise

elusive constituency for the nation brand.

For this reason, I suggest "global-national imaginary" as an analytical term that captures

the ideological practice of nation branding in WTO-era China. Following Cornelius Castoriadis,

I understand "imaginary" as a pre-rational, pre-symbolic cultural order that informs the decisions

and actions of a particular group of people.58 It is within an imaginary that a collective subject is
called upon to engage in particular actions. While the imaginary itself may not be immediately

present in the language adopted by social actors, it nonetheless helps to shape the form of actions

taken and the choice of language used to initiate or describe them. WTO-era China's nation

branding is precisely such a project of collective agent making, of calling into being a citizen-

subject who is to imagine the nation in a manner that conforms to a particular cultural order.

Central to the symbolic matrix that makes up this cultural order is the brand, a construct

supported by a set of IPR lexicons, from trademarks to intangible values. The conjuring up of the

nation in terms of the brand informs the actions of the citizen-subjects in ways that are often

unconscious to those implicated in the process, whether the news crews that interviewed

Bongiorni or the producers who repurposed the CNN footage for the CCTV program.

What makes the term "global-national imaginary" particularly useful is that it captures

the simultaneously transnational and national cultural production of the state. On the one hand,

the transnational formation of the "Made in China" brand construes "China" as a globalized

object of consumption. It is, to be sure, an object of both desire and fear. The making of this

complex object in global media also creates the condition for the self-insertion of the Chinese

state, as may be observed from the state media's appropriation of the CNN/Bongiorni discourse.

Indeed, the production of the state's subject position depends on the nation's visibility, embodied

in the global consumer object "Made in China." In other words, the global-national imaginary

attunes us to the simultaneous production of the nation as an "imagined community" à la

Benedict Anderson and a "global type" à la Craig Calhoun (see introduction). It describes a

global-national ideological formation, one that enables the production of the state as a primary

agent of the nation's global ascendency. It does so through the protection and promotion of the
"Made in China" brand as a globally circulated nation brand. It also manifests the self-

repositioning of the party-state as a subject of history that will ensure the nation's progress along

the "homogeneous, empty time" of global modernity (as will be made more visible in the move

toward "Created in China.")

Perhaps no other example speaks to the production of this global-national imaginary

better than a thirty-second commercial aired on CNN after Thanksgiving 2009, "Made in China,

Made with the World (Zhongguo Zhizao, Shijie Hezuo)." The sponsorship for the ad (created by a

private public relations firm) came from China's Ministry of Commerce and the Advertising

Association of Commerce, as well as chambers of commerce for three industries: the Import and

Export of Machinery and Electronic Products, Light Industrial Products and Arts-Crafts, and

Textiles. These industries ostensibly represent the pillars of China's export sector, which suggests

a "globally" minded branding scheme. The ad showcases several sequences of visibly

"foreign" (read "Caucasian") consumers using Chinese-made products, including running shoes,

a refrigerator, an MP3 player, a fashion model's garment, and an airplane. In every sequence, a

close-up shot of the label reveals their "connections" with the world--"with American sports

technology," "with European style," "with software from Silicon Valley," "with French

designers," and "with engineers from all over the world."59

Some commentators speculated that the ad was supposed to be broadcast earlier but "was

delayed as a result of the melamine-tainted milk scandal,"60 which broke out in October 2008.61

However, at a press conference Liu Libin, the deputy director of general affairs of China's

Advertising Association of Commerce, denied that there was a delay and revealed that the whole
production process took a year and a half. After numerous meetings between government

officials and ad professionals, the theme for the commercial also evolved from "Made in China is

Right Next To You" to "Enjoy Made in China," before finally turning into "Made with the

World."62 The final choice manifests at once the alliance between "the world" and the nation of

China, as well as the desire to connect more intimately with the "world's" spectators--in this case,

the audience of CNN. The entire spot contains very few typical symbols of "Chineseness." The

only nation-specific touch comes at the end, when a miniature red traditional seal-style four-

character set, zhong guo zhi zao ("Made in China"), appears to the right of the English characters

"Made with the World." Even the choice of music--a light-hearted guitar tune--may be more

easily identified as the hip "global" type of indie rock than anything more typically associated

with "traditional Chineseness."

State-affiliated researchers favorably interpreted this ad as a display of the "Made in

China" brand, one that reflects the national strategy of "soft power."63 Proposed by the Harvard

political scientist Joseph Nye in 1990, the concept of "soft power" (ruan shili, or ruan quanli)

was introduced into China's policy discourse in 1993 by Fudan University professor Wang

Huning, who later became the central government's top consultant on international politics. The

term made its way into official strategy in President Hu Jintao's address at the Chinese

Communist Party's Seventeenth National Congress in 2007.64 Under the section "Promoting the

Great Development and Great Enrichment of Socialist Culture," Hu calls for "enhancing the

nation's cultural soft power," as culture "has increasingly become an important source for

national cohesion and creativity, a key factor in the competition of comprehensive national
power."65 The "Made with the World" ad, in this sense, can be seen as a strategic move in

presenting the national image to the world through cultural means. At the same time, this

"culture" is more accurately understood as a soft powered (if not "American-styled") industrially

produced culture (witness the ad's use of "indie" music) that is at once globally communicable

and nationally specific. It is precisely this global-national imaginary that prompted the Chinese

government and relevant industrial alliances to take up the mission of producing the CNN ad.

More significantly, the state's subject position inculcated in the global-national imaginary

is dependent on the object status of the nation brand. After all, the "Made in China" brand

emerged as an object in crisis. Its crisis-ridden characteristics afford the state the opportunity to

present itself as a subject that can not only lead the nation out of crisis but also direct it toward a

future--a future that is to be prescribed by the global imaginary of the brand. The state, in

essence, appears as a split subject.66 The interpellation of the citizen-subjects is itself subject to

globally implicated contestations.

This establishment of the state's subjectivity takes two primary forms. On the one hand,

the state establishes itself as an arbiter of international trade relations. The ad happened to appear

on CNN a few months after several major Sino-U.S. trade disputes that resulted in penalties for

China's exporters. Among them, President Obama's use of the product-specific safeguard

provision to raise tariffs on tires imported from China--a response to the United Steelworkers

union's complaint--generated the most criticism of America's "protectionism" in Chinese media.

Journalistic accounts repeatedly cited this and other foreign "technical trade barriers" as the

reason for the major loss of revenue among China's export industries.67 The head of the National
Quality Inspection Bureau even denounced "the 'Chinese Product Threat' discourse itself" as "a

form of trade protection" and a defensive response on the part of foreigners to "the increasing

share of Chinese products in the international market."68 These narratives of China's

"subjection" to international trade disputes equate the low cost of the "Made in China" brand

with its perceived global market competitiveness. This attribution at once elevates "Made in

China" to a marker of national success and re-casts it as a victim of the unequal power relations

in the international trade system. It not only affirms the state policy of Reform and Opening Up

but recycles the long-standing anti-imperialist sentiment more closely associated with the Maoist

era. The idea, then, is that even as China has become a much more powerful nation--thanks to the

correctness of state policies--it still demands stronger state voices in representing the nation in

such international arenas as the WTO.

On the other hand, the state is also positioned as a regulator of the "Made in China"

brand. This involves not only ensuring its global consumers' satisfaction but also protecting it

from being tarnished by deviant behavior, such as counterfeiting. As some commentators on the

"Made with the World" ad point out, "the nurturing of brand loyalty is a long process,"69 one

that requires "the 'hard power' of product quality."70 What is implied is that this "hard power" is

in need of the state's tightened quality control and institutional as well as procedural oversight. In

the words of the National Quality Inspection Bureau official, the brand-nurturing process entails

more severe criminalization of those producers who "make or sell fake" products.71 This

differentiation of the "good" (and "real") "Made in China" from the "bad" "Faked in China" does

the job of transferring the consumer's ability to discern fakes to the (quality) control of the state.
In assuming the role of a protector, the state's interest is realigned with that of the "global"

consumer, both domestic and foreign.

These narrative deployments of "Made in China," championed by CCTV (the emblem of

state media), have been pervasive in the nation's media discourse. However, part of my task here

is to resist their simplification as so-called state propaganda. For one thing, CCTV itself has

undergone profound changes over the Reform years. Formerly Beijing Television, founded in

1958, the station was officially re-established in 1978.72 It was meant to "unify the country

through presentation of official news and information, culturally-appropriate entertainment," and

the promotion of Mandarin (or Putonghua) as the national language.73 In and after the 1990s, the

"iron rice bowl" system that guaranteed lifelong employment, typical of labor conditions in the

cultural sector, largely began giving way to a more "flexible" contract-based model.74 One of the

most significant outcomes of this shift was the rise of a "new breed" of "cultural workers" hired

independently by producers. They occupy a "new space" that is capable of destabilizing the

totalizing state voices in significant ways.75 In addition, with "global capital" rather than the

state constituting its "main source of funding," the station had to adjust the programming to

"ensure high ratings" and attract "advertising and sponsorship dollars."76 This

commercialization has certainly shifted the orientation of the station from a concern chiefly with

the delivery of political messages to a concentration on profit making--what Yuezhi Zhao calls

the internalization of "the discourses of transnational capitalism" by "a national media

At the same time, CCTV's monopoly status means that it retains a powerful presence in

the national psyche, even as it has increasingly become the target of online parody and mockery

(chapter 2). The "Believe in Made in China" program, like many other CCTV productions,

generated a significant round of blogger responses. One post titled itself "Made in China, I Don't

Believe." The blogger, named "Agent of Delusion," collected a series of diatribes against the

program and CCTV in general. While some of these comments display a distrust of the typical

"fooling" rhetoric of the state's mouthpiece, others link the attitude presented in this program to

the famous character depicted in the modernist author Lu Xun's novel, Ah Q.78 The idea is that

much like Ah Q, a character known for his ability to construct self-satisfying narratives through

the so-called "method of psychological victory" (Jingshen Shenglifa), CCTV always comes up

with stories to make China feel good about itself. A more sarcastic note states that "whoever

CCTV supports (ting) would die. 'Made in China' is being supported, [and that's how] I know

that 'Made in China' is about done." Others invoke a slogan imitating the rhetoric of an antidrug

campaign, "Cherish your life, keep CCTV far away (zhenxi shengming, yuanli CCTV), which has

become a widely circulated tag line online.79

A more elaborate response came from the outspoken Wharton-trained economist Lang

Xianping. Lang, a professor in Hong Kong, became famous for stimulating a media debate on

the legitimacy of neoliberalism in 2003.80 While continuing to publicize his criticism of the

exploitative nature of globalized industrial production chains, Lang now appears twice a week on

a late-night talk show featuring his views on finance and economics. This show is aired on the

Guangdong Satellite TV station and made immediately available on his online fan site. On
December 13, 2009, the theme for discussion was "Made in China overseas," and the host

opened with a plotline from the Hollywood blockbuster 2012. "Just as in the Bible, Noah is the

trusted producer for God," he states, "in the movie, China is the trusted producer for America, as

Noah's Ark is made in China." However, "in reality," he goes on, "America's colored lenses have

never been taken off," implying that the United States has been biased toward China in handling

trade disputes.

After reviewing the "Made in China, Made with the World" ad, Lang claims that the ad

producers "got it all wrong." For him, the message of the ad is this:

<EXT>The design belongs to others. The core technologies belong to others. We are only in

charge of manufacture. It's clearly telling other people that we are just workers, peasant migrants

(nongmin gong). Everything is controlled by you. High-value-added components are controlled

by you. [Since] we already serve as such low-value-added laborers, why are you treating us so

badly? Please give us a break. . . . <\>81

<FL>Lang's reading of the ad excavates a subject-object relationship that is quite different from

that of its "official" interpreters. Rather than understanding "Made in China" as enunciated by the

speaking subject of the (abstracted) Chinese nation, he locates "we" in the bodies of the migrant

peasants-turned-workers. This reading then complicates the emergent subjectivity of the nation

in the world; it reveals the objectifying process--the commodification of "the people"--that

materially underlies the making of the nation brand. Instead of reading "the world" as China's

collaborator, he interprets "you" (the "world" for whom the ad is made) as owners of "design"

and "core technologies," that is, intellectual property. The agency of control, then, remains safely

in the hands of global capital, which ultimately owns the means of production in the so-called
information/knowledge economy. The inherent contradictions of the global-national imaginary

masked by the CCTV ad are thus made visible; what provides the foundation for the nation's

global ascendency and the state's self-imagination as a subject in the world is the objectification

of "the people."82

Wang Mudi, the talk-show host, then brings up a recent formulation in the media--"From

Made in China to Created in China." Amid the "Made in China" brand crisis, this slogan has

been taking on a discursive momentum unmatched by the media's earlier "Made in China"

rebranding efforts. What mobilizes this reconfiguration, which projects a movement from the

present model of "Made in China" to a future of "Created in China?" How does this discourse

contribute to the ideological production of the global-national imaginary? These questions

warrant further investigation into the production of the rhetoric itself. As I will demonstrate

through a mapping of the "Created in China" discourse, the adoption of this slogan as a national

policy directive is indicative of the effect of the IPR regime on WTO-era China's global-national

imaginary, an effect that is manifested most visibly through the distinct temporality of the brand.

<A>"Created in China" as National Policy<\>

The making of the slogan "From Made in China to Created in China" may be attributed to

the biggest global-national branding event of the decade--the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 1999, as

part of the preparation for the bid to host the Games, a state-level symposium was held to

promote the idea expressed as "New Beijing, New Olympics." Its organizers went on to form a

non-profit organization called Creative China Industrial Alliance (CCIA, or Chuangyi

Zhongguo).83 As its director Su Tong explained, the goal of the organization is to "take a global
outlook" in urban planning, "responsive to local contexts" while "reaching out to the world"

through "a comprehensive branding strategy."84 The invocation of "branding" here is indicative

of the rising brand consciousness on the part of China's cultural policymakers. Not only did Su

address the need to "allow China to refresh its understanding of the world and allow the world to

rediscover a new China," he also emphasized that "creativity is not just about big cities and the

middle classes; it needs to be distributed to become people-centred" (my emphasis).85 This

emphasis on "the people" is significant, as it reflects a default status of "the people" as other than

the urban middle class--that is, the rural (and migrant) population that constitutes the majority of

the citizenry.86 Implicitly acknowledged is the highly unequal distribution of "creativity" within

China's vast geographical differences and widening class gaps.

However, this suggested focus on the "people" is seemingly elided in the subsequent

policy formation of "Created in China" (zhongguo chuangzao). The term began appearing in

publications like Chinese Business and Modern Enterprise Education in 2003.87 Before long,

Liu Shifa, an official from the Ministry of Culture, put forth the idea "From Made in China to

Created in China" (cong Zhongguo zhizao dao Zhongguo chuangzao). The slogan was first

publically displayed at the Seventh Beijing Science Expo in May 2004. Subsequently, a national

policy that promotes "creative industries" (chuangyi chanye) began to take hold, replacing the

language of developing "culture industries" (wenhua chanye) formally adopted in the Tenth Five-

Year Plan.88 This did not reflect a motivation to cultivate rural creativity, however; those who

infused the policies with the new vocabulary of the "creative economy" were none other than
businesses and officials in megacities like Beijing and Shanghai.89 As the "From Made in China

to Created in China" slogan has evolved from a CCIA coinage into a branding strategy, it has

increasingly moved away from the ostensible claim to serve the people and closer to a mandate

to serve the nation.

How then does the state justify the political legitimacy of this policy initiative at this

particular historical moment, given that the Maoist principle to "Serve the People" has been one

of the founding ideologies of the party-state?90 Certainly, what distinguished the WTO era from

the past was the pressure to present a perfected national image for the Olympics, a global media

event that called for a comprehensive branding strategy for the entire nation. The concern for the

global media gaze has no doubt helped shape the language and imagery of "Created in China."

For one thing, the "green idea" of creativity as a seemingly "unlimited" resource is appealing for

"a country where the 'Made in China' model had turned skies a brownish grey."91 These

associations between creativity and national development reasonably lured the municipal,

township, and county officials into lending their consent to the "Created in China" notion.

Having discarded environmental and labor standards in favor of manufacturing capacity for three

decades, Chinese leaders are now presumably able to discern the "limits of growth" and the risk

of losing manufacturing contracts to "less-expensive locations" due to the rising costs of

production.92 The idea of the "long economy (changjiu jingji)" (long as both the pinyin spelling/

pronunciation for the Chinese symbol of the dragon and the signifier for long-term, sustainable

growth), put forth by Su himself, is illustrative of this anxiety and the wish to overcome it.93
Still, these linkages between the nation's global outlook and national policymaking practices do

not explain how and why this particular formation of "Created in China" came to be solidified as

the national vision, accumulating such discursive power as to preclude other ways of imagining

the nation's future. To get a glimpse into its workings in prescribing a specific kind of

temporality for the nation, it is worthwhile to analyze the media discourse surrounding "From

Made in China to Created in China" in light of the global imaginary of the brand.

<A>"From Made in China to Created in China": A Cultural Production<\>

In 2009, CCTV aired a five-part series with the English title Across Made in China.

("Across" here appears to be a mistranslation of the Chinese term kua yue, which literally refers

to "surpassing" or "overcoming.") A highly sophisticated production that took two years to

complete, the program reiterates China's competitiveness in manufacturing before telling several

stories of domestic brands going global, with a finale called "Upgrading Made in China."94 It

features several Chinese entrepreneurs who have succeeded in creating their own brand-name

products, even bringing them into overseas markets. Business experts from Japan, America, and

elsewhere are also invited to comment on China's situation vis-à-vis those previously faced by

more "advanced" nations.

Early on, the program invokes two key markers of the "global" present: the 2008 Beijing

Olympics and the subsequent global financial meltdown. The first sets the Beijing Games in a

comparative light along with the only other two former Olympics staged in Asia in history: the

1964 Tokyo Games and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. The second heightens the downfall of

numerous "global giants" at the onset of the economic crisis, implying that "Made in China" is

both a foundation and a precursor to a new era of development for China. Strategically blending
the two, the narrator asks: "Can Lenovo be like Sony and Panasonic after the Tokyo Olympics?"

or "Samsung after Seoul's?" This narrative mirrors a pervasive discourse in print media in the

wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown, a crisis that forced many export processing

companies in China into downsizing if not bankruptcy.95 Numerous observers have come to

attribute this consequence of the crisis to China's lack of IPR-protected values.96 To avoid future

disasters of this kind, they argue, it is imperative for Chinese enterprises to establish their own

brands.97 Taking this rhetoric one step further, the CCTV program carefully merges a diagnosis

of the present--signaled by Sara Bongiorni's proved-to-be-challenging "year without"

experiment--with an image of the future. It implies that the post-Olympics success of Japanese

and Korean brands can be replicated by brands created in China, if one recognizes the present as

an opportunity to "reshuffle the cards for the game." "History is in our own hands," states the

voice-over, "and it requires every single Chinese to share our individual responsibility."98

The ostensible alignment of "every single Chinese" with the subject position as the maker

of the nation's history is hardly a new interpellating strategy. One may argue that this way of

mobilizing a mass subjectivity harks back to Mao's Great Leap Forward, whereby the nation was

set on a path to overtake the Western imperialist powers through high-speed industrialization.99

However, the protagonists featured in the CCTV program are the creators of globally significant

domestic brands--that is, the entrepreneur-capitalists. Indeed, they are endowed with the mission

of reinventing the nation's future. In the words of one business leader: "An enterprise is the unit

in the nation. Only when each enterprise is big can the country be strong, the nation be
strong."100 The linking of the interests of capitalists with that of the nation not only portrays

them as the prime movers who are to realize the "Created in China" vision; it also serves to

marginalize the subject status of those who are the "mere manufacturers" of foreign brands--the

migrant workers as the producers of items "made in China."

This "re-shuffling" of subject positions signals a deeper transformation in the ideological

state apparatus. For one thing, the state appears to be operating within a global branding

imaginary. This imaginary not only specifies a "branded"--that is, IPR-friendly--vision for the

nation but also prescribes the set of actors and actions that are indispensible for realizing that

vision. If the "Made in China" brand emerged in a transnational crisis of product quality, this

crisis is now more tangibly linked with the global financial crisis in 2008, when signs of global

capital's movement from China to lower-cost regions like Vietnam began to develop.101 The

former emphasis on the competitiveness of "Made in China" began to seem a less effective

means to boost citizens' confidence in this nation brand. As a result, the abundant "human

resource" that contributes to price competitiveness is itself no longer as attractive a feature to

highlight when describing the "Made in China" nation brand. What is called for, instead, is a set

of actors that would lift the nation out of its present state toward a future whose landscape is

clearly laid out--in the imaginary of "Created in China." These historical actors are the "creative"

class of entrepreneurs, not the workers engaged in manual labor; if anything, the latter are now

positioned as "the people," an a priori object for national pedagogy.102

This production of an imaginary speaks to the hegemonic formation of the national

bourgeoisie--that is, knowledge- or information capitalists expected to create products eligible
for IPR protection. What makes this particular "narration" of the nation unique is that it no longer

portrays the nation through representation, as is often the case in a literary culture based on a

national language. Rather, the national vision is conjured up through the brand, a construct

inscribed with intangible value, sanctioned by the IPR discourse. The citizen-subject is thus

sutured into a branded temporality to which China must conform in order to fulfill the vision of

development toward a predetermined future. This particular way of imagining the nation in a

global time of "progress" ascribes historical agency to subjects in a particular class--that of the

so-called creative entrepreneurs who are capable of producing intangible value. Those precluded

from these subject positions are then reduced to objects for the "nation branding" pedagogy of

the elites.

A speech made by Fred Hu Zuliu, the director of Tsinghua University's Chinese

Economics Research Center and the managing director for Goldman Sachs (Asia), helps to

illustrate this IPR-informed suturing process. When speaking to a group of government officials

and business executives, Hu situates China in a low-end position in the global supply chain,

arguing that the "labor-intensive" model upon which China has depended for the past couple of

decades is now faced with worsening trade and environmental conditions. In order to ensure the

nation's "future development of a comprehensive economy," Hu calls upon Chinese

manufacturing industries to transform themselves "from low-end manufacturing to mid- or high-

end segments of the value chain."103 Noting that "a key marker to distinguish 'Made' from

'Created' is the amount of holdings in intellectual property," Hu invokes the "Made" to "Created"

paths taken previously by Europe, America, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. He emphatically singles

out the example of the United States: "Nowadays not many products can be found 'made in
USA,' with the exception of software, medicine, airplanes, and Hollywood movies, but no one

would doubt that those products 'made in China' or 'made in Mexico' contain elements 'created in

USA.' [sic]" Linking this U.S. example back to the need for China to embark on a more

sustainable path of "scientific development," Hu suggests that "a fundamental change needs to

take shape from the tangible 'Made in China' to the intangible 'Created in China,'" which entails

boosts in educational and human resources, greater research and development investment, and

"intellectual property protection and capital market development."104

Hu's characterization of the "Created in China" national vision as an intangible value

places China on a global developmentalist trajectory. In this and other commentaries, such as

those championed by CCTV, the future value of brands "created in China" is guaranteed if the

"Made in China" present can be overcome in the same way as its predecessors, such as "Made in

Germany" in the nineteenth century, "Made in Japan" in the 1950s, and "Made in Korea" in the

1980s.105 Once China is positioned in a global time frame of development by way of

comparison, the eventual global success of these formerly tainted domestic brands serves to

instill a sense of confidence that "Created in China" will be the next to overcome the pitfalls of

"Made in China." China's future is thus envisioned as one of "virtual capitalism," distinguishable

from the "actual capitalism" that characterized the earlier "national manufacturing order." This is

a mode of capital accumulation that depends "less on the abstract, homogenous labour of actuals,

and more on the generative and invention-based potential of virtual objects."106 In other words,

the nation of the future is to extract its value from brands created in China rather than products

made in China. This movement depends on the conversion of the nation's participation in making
actual products into a capacity for generating intangible value in "virtual" brands. The success of

this conversion is itself predicated on the idea that brand values are to be realized in the future. In

this way, the campaign "From Made in China to Created in China" not only entrenches the nation

deeper in the teleology of development and modernization, but has also more aggressively

naturalized the "higher time" of advanced capitalism.107

The pervasiveness of the "Created in China" discourse is also evidenced by wide-ranging

cultural productions and events. Among them was a song performed by the famous Western-style

opera singer Liao Changyong to celebrate the launching of the Shenzhou No. 7 space shuttle.

CCTV's 2009 Annual Economic Figures included two groups of business executives under the

categories "Made in China" and "Created in China."108 The two labels also made their way into

an award-winning high-school student essay, entitled "How Far is it from Made in China to

Created in China?" The author, a ninth-grader from Rudong County, Jiangsu Province, points out

that the "China price" comes at the expense of the workers' harsh conditions, lack of safety and

union protection, and eternally low wages. "How many lives have been compensated for what

appears to be cheap 'Made in China'?" the author asks. "The limits of challenge for China should

be at the medal-awarding pedestal of the Olympic Games, the R&D of high-tech products, and

not in using lives to challenge the limit of low cost for 'Made in China.'" Like other

commentaries of this kind, there is an explicit antagonism directed toward the state-capital

relationship, whether foreign or domestic. But the essay nonetheless ends with a call for action:

"When can that character 'Made' be turned into 'Created?' What beautiful words, 'created in

China!' I, we, every single Chinese . . . we have a long way to go, and our burden of
responsibility is heavy (renzhong er daoyuan)."109 The invocation of the real cost of "Made in

China" here serves to heighten the urgency for "all Chinese" to participate in the movement away

from the present. The march toward "Created in China," then, fully enacts the ideological force

of the global-national imaginary, for it is through concrete actions taken up by "every single

Chinese" that nation branding is to materialize its proffered national vision.


The "Made" to "Created" rhetoric triggered more sneers from Lang Xianping. In the same

TV program on Guangdong Satellite, he points out that the success of Germany and Japan in

overcoming their "fake" image had to do with their demand for precision in serving their

"wartime machineries"--a tradition lacking in China, which is trying to "construct high buildings

from the plains." For him, China's model can only follow that of Taiwan, a sort of

"mistress" (bang dakuan) economy, because the "exploitive division" is too hard to overcome.

110 Lang's distrust of the rhetoric here speaks quite pointedly to the unequal global relations of

power that underlie the global-national imaginary "From Made in China to Created in China." As

an ideological formation that has come to reconfigure the WTO-era Chinese state, this imaginary

reflects the subtle yet complex working of IPR in proffering a particular vision for the nation.

What grants discursive power to the notion of "Created in China" is a temporality of progress

specifically associated with the brand. Not only does the IPR regime serve as a legitimizing

structure for the brands' intangible value; it also offers a developmental path that requires a

strong state to guide the nation toward a future glorified by nation brands.

In this sense, the cultural work of IPR in shaping the "From Made in China to Created in
China" discourse prompts us to rethink the productive rather than invasive workings of

globalization qua cultural imperialism. While the transnationally produced "Made in China"

brand crisis is not directly attributable to IPR, the conjoined temporalities of the nation and the

brand had come to naturalize this label in the form of a globally circulated nation brand. After

all, the crisis of "Made in China" is a crisis of authenticity in that the global imaginary of the

brand has destabilized the state's "natural" claim to the nation. It is by resorting to a global-

national imaginary--one that simultaneously corresponds to the global consumer-citizen and

conforms to the financializing temporality of the brand--that the state is able to reconstitute itself

as an agentive force in steering the nation toward an IPR-friendly future. In other words, IPR's

cultural work has not only produced a schism between the nation and the state, it has also

prescribed how the state may go about restoring its tie to the nation--by aligning its own citizen-

subjects to fit with an IPR-friendly national vision. What is privileged in the nation-branding

discourse, therefore, is the subject position of the domestic entrepreneurs who are deemed most

qualified to shore up the legitimacy of the state. In this process, the working-class subjects

behind the "Made in China" label are marginalized even though the objectification of their labor

constitutes the foundation for the rise of the "Made in China" nation brand itself.

The working of the IPR regime, however, is not limited to shaping the state imaginary for

the nation. Its cultural manifestation also includes the transnational practice of counterfeit

culture--a culture of circulation that is bound to contest the homogeneous temporality of

development on which the nation-branding project is predicated. Indeed, the "fake" incidents at

the Beijing Olympics, along with numerous other "China fake" stories that consistently erupt into

the global media spotlight, are powerful reminders that between "Made in China" and "Created
in China" looms the specter of "Faked in China." Just as the brand can be subject to

heterogeneous meaning-making practices that disrupt the value regime based on intangibility, the

nation can also be re-imagined by various subjects and publics in ways that challenge the state-

sanctioned trajectory of IPR progress. While these publics conjure up alternative visions for

transforming the social world that is WTO-era China, their interactions with the project of nation

branding also enact the contradictory cultural effects of IPR, and indeed the unequal relations of

power that persist in contemporary globalization.